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Do the 49ers need a wide receiver in free agency?

We review the 49ers’ wide receiver position from 2017. Do they need to upgrade from Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin?

Before the start of the NFL free agency period, we’re going to look at various positions on the San Francisco 49ers’ roster to determine a few things. The first is whether or not the position improved from 2016 to 2017. The second is to see if free agency is a viable option to improve the position — if it’s even needed.

Season in review

The 49ers basically parted ways with Torrey Smith to replace him with a cheaper option of himself in Marquise Goodwin, at least that’s what we all thought. That’s what it seemed like at the beginning of the season. But Goodwin quietly performed decently until Jimmy Garoppolo took over, at which point he had multiple 100-yard receiving games.

He caught 10 passes for 114 yards against the Tennessee Titans, and that was without Pierre Garçon in the lineup. Garçon was played quite well himself before he was lost for the season with an injury against the Philadelphia Eagles. He had multiple highlight reel, toe-tapping catches on the sidelines. But he finished the season with 40 receptions for 500 yards, playing in seven full games.

Goodwin finished the year with 56 receptions for 962 yards and two touchdowns. With Garoppolo under center, a top two of Garçon and Goodwin still seems quite strong. But it’s not all the 49ers have to offer.

Enter rookie Trent Taylor. He had a couple drops early in the season, but he was rock solid from then on. In 15 games, he caught 43 passes for 430 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His best work came on third down. He caught a total of 18 third-down passes for a first down, tying him for fifth among all receivers in the NFC, and tying him for ninths among all receivers in the NFL.

All of that while participating in just 44.91 percent of offensive snaps, and being a fifth-round pick. Kendrick Bourne didn’t get a ton of playing time, but he was dependable in short bursts, catching 16 passes for 257 yards on the year. Aldrick Robinson had 19 receptions for 260 yards.

Goodwin played on 69.91 percent of offensive snaps, while Taylor was next among receivers. Robinson was just behind him at 39.91 percent of snaps.

Here’s a look at the way the position changed from 2016 to 2017:

2016 Week 17: Jeremy Kerley, Rod Streater, Chris Harper, Aaron Burbridge, DeAndre Smelter, Torrey Smith (IR), Quinton Patton (IR), Bruce Ellington (IR), Eric Rogers (IR)
2017 Week 1: Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson, Victor Bolden Jr., Kendrick Bourne
Current: Pierre Garçon (IR), Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson, Kendrick Bourne, Louis Murphy, Victor Bolden

As you can see, the depth chart didn’t change much, save for Garçon going on injured reserve. Robinson remained above Bourne, but I think Bourne showed some solid potential. Murphy also contributed, even in a small way.

The market for wide receivers

We’re going to take a deeper look at the various positions and free agents available in a separate series. For now, here’s a quick and dirty list of the top wide receivers set to hit the open market.

Michael Floyd, Minnesota Vikings
Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jordan Matthews, Buffalo Bills
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins
Terrelle Pryor, Washington
Mike Wallace, Baltimore Ravens
Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams
Eric Decker, Tennessee Titans
Harry Douglas, Tennessee Titans
Taylor Gabriel, Atlanta Falcons
Dontrelle Inman, Chicago Bears
Kamar Aiken, Indianapolis Colts
Kendall Wright, Chicago Bears
Jaron Brown, Arizona Cadinals
Andre Roberts, Atlanta Falcons
Matthew Slater, New England Patriots
Albert Wilson, Kansas City Chiefs
Danny Amendola, New England Patriots
Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers
Cameron Meredith (RFA), Chicago Bears
Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals